Sturm und Drang 1

Record and Artist Details

Ian Page’s projects with The Mozartists are distinguished not only by exemplary standards of performance but also by the ambition and imagination that underpin them. ‘Mozart in London’ (7/18) was a vital, ear-opening exploration of music in the English capital in the 1760s and now Page and his musicians turn their attention to developments in operatic and orchestral music at around the same time in Central Europe.

This is the period during which the genial galant style was suddenly confronted with a new language of visceral power and heightened emotion, exemplified by dark minor keys, stark string effects, disjunct melodies and sudden extremes of dynamics. Haydn is the best known of the practitioners of Sturm und Drang and is represented here by one of his most austere symphonies, La Passione in F minor – in which the balm of the major key is only felt briefly in the Trio of the Minuet. But this style was born onstage, and Gluck’s music for his Don Juan ballet is often cited as one of its very earliest outings. You can hear more of the ballet in recordings by John Eliot Gardiner (complete on Erato, 10/82) or at the launch of Giovanni Antonini’s ‘Haydn 2032’ series (Alpha, 3/15, coupled with the same Haydn symphony), but this recording offers only the final scene – which is, after all, the excerpt that matters in this context – complete with added wind effects.

Chiara Skerath (‘One to Watch’ in the last issue of Gramophone) is suitably dramatic in first recordings of arias from operas by Jommelli and Traetta – especially valuable, not least because these are composers perhaps better known by name or reputation than for their actual music. A further aria from Haydn’s La canterina exploits the sound – much beloved of the composer during this period – of a pair of cors anglais. Franz Ignaz Beck’s Symphony in G minor by packs a terrific punch despite fielding forces no larger than strings and a pair of horns – but what horns (Gavin Edwards and Nick Benz), and with what freedom they are encouraged to make their mark! As for the Haydn, the expansive anguish of the opening Adagio is countered by an Allegro di molto and closing Presto that fizz with fury. The playing throughout is excellent and the programme is as deeply satisfying as the project’s entire conception.

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